RIP webOS: Again and for good this time

RIP webOS: Again and for good this time

Summary: The situation at HP is putting a nail in the coffin of webOS, effectively killing it off yet again.


There are few tales in the tech business as sad as that of webOS, the groundbreaking (at the time) mobile OS by beleaguered Palm that HP bought for far too much money a few years ago. Sales of webOS phones never made a dent in the industry, and the much-anticipated TouchPad tablet was cancelled by HP before it even got started.

Then HP reshuffled its management and decided to make webOS open-source to keep the platform from going the way of the dodo. It would offer webOS to the world for anyone to use, and keep the team intact to make a serious effort.

Now comes the word that Google has poached the core Enyo team from HP, to end up doing who-knows-what at Google. Odds are it won't be bringing Enyo, the application framework behind webOS, into the Android effort. Whatever these smart folks end up doing for Google, their departure pretty much puts the kibosh on the open-source webOS effort no matter what HP says.

HP is not in a position to make a serious run at the webOS open-source effort. Having just announced the impending layoff of 27,000 employees, HP must be the worst place to work in any industry. You read that right, the layoffs are in the thousands, or more than many companies in the world employ in total. What a sad place HP must be to work today.

So don't expect webOS to set the open-source world on fire, it is coming from too bad a place for that to happen. Given HP's terrible situation, there is no way the open-source webOS effort will be a priority. Most of the key webOS team have already left HP for greener pastures, and this news about the important Enyo team is just a twisting of the knife.

It's a safe call to say that webOS is finally dead in reality, if not in name. Such a sad end for what could have been a revolutionary mobile OS. RIP webOS.

Topic: Mobile OS

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  • If it's going open source, why does HP matter?

    Once they release the code, isn't the company that made it irrelevant? I mean, sure the company needs to release the relevant APIs so that people don't have to reinvent the wheel, but after that, won't it be a community effort, without HP mattering much?
    • Significant Work May Be Involved

      It's true that once HP released the source code for WebOS it could be picked up by any in the community to be further developed. However, a significant amount of work may be involved in getting the code ready for an open source release. There may be parts of the code that are licensed from someone else or can't be released as open source for whatever reason. At the very least, some sort of internal survey of the code probably has to be carried out. It very easily could happen still, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.
      • Correct. Open sourcing code doesnt mean products will be created

        That takes work and most people want to be compensated for their efforts.
      • It's all on track... be completed by September and the Enyo framework was already released. HP already determined that doing nothing with WebOS wasn't an option. There's no need to worry.
      • That takes work and most people want to be compensated for their efforts

        Are you saying they won't? Or does [b]everything[/b] have to have a dollar sign attached to it.
      • The best things in life are free?

        Almost always, if something is free it's because it has no value. Even in a totalitarian setting, if the work you do has value to the state, you're rewarded for it. Outside of a humanitarian context, only a fool gives his services away for nothing.
    • Because the dirty little secret is

      it takes money to develop open source, and if you don't have anyone making enough money and/or having enough free time outside their paying job to write the open source, it doesn't get written. Not something as complex as WebOS.
      • 'Free' requires people who have income or support from something else

        And 'free' cannot be universal because it requires skills that have been learned because there were enough people wanting them for making a living.

        'Free' will only ever be a small part of any industry. Otherwise the people with the skills will be too few to support anything worthwhile.

        In a way, 'free' is a 'parasite' (they can be symbiotic) on the 'paid' host, in that too much free, and the host gets sick or dies. It is finding the right equilibrium, but the host MUST benefit. Too many demands by the parasite and the host retaliates.

        Really, I don't know why so many have a hangup on people earning money from software. Just because it is not solid does not mean it does not require a substantial amount of effort and risk.

        Or are people hung up on 'money is the root of all evil', whereas the full quote is 'LOVE OF money is the root of all evil'.
  • Opportunity for Apple to acquire HPs software patents and OS

    Great time for Apple to prove its love for its dead leader by acquiring grounds to sue Andriod.

    But wait that's already been done by Oracle. It didn't turn out so well.
  • Options for FOSS mobility space

    1) Tizen. A Phoenix reborning from its ashes after maemo, moblin, meego, etc

    2) KDE Plasma

    3) WebOS

    Too much for too few human resources, I believe
    Juan Chulilla
    • Tizen - another cycle in the wings

      I'm just waiting on the Tizen powers that be to recycle into yet-another-open-source effort. They must be taking that GitHub "Fork Me" tagline seriously.
  • Dont forget Linux itself

    Linux on Mobile handsets share is more than any of the above three right now. Of course I know Linux is powering all of these and Android of course.
    Ram U
  • There is another way...

    you can use an operating system you actually *pay* for. I know it's a weird concept... but I hear it's been done and done well. Leave WebOS, Tizen and the rest for the hobbyists.
    • It's working really well for Nokia!

      It is not at all clear whether Windows Phone or Windows on tablets will find success in the mobile space. Nokia has taken a major risk with its OS strategy, and right now it is struggling to survive the next year. And if RIM has a competitive platform with BB10 next year, the situation is going to be even more difficult.
  • WebOS... the zombie operating system...

    taking away the core team might just be equivalent to the shot gun shot death blow to the medulla oblongata or head severing sledge hammer blow... lol..

    die, just die already!
  • Google should by Palm's patents also

    I'm happy to hear that Google has hired a Palm team, although I suspect all of the good people left HP a long time ago. As a former Pre user I miss it's multitasking capability. Palm's hardware sucked but WebOS was better than anything you can buy today. Android has no multitasking, I'd like to see something like the WebOS multitasking interface added to Android. If I were running Google I'd buy all of Palm's patents from HP and I'd make adding multitasking a priority.
    • Or just replace Android with WebOS....

      which is what I would rather see. Android is a stinking pile compared to the elegance of WebOS. As with Beta vs VHS its not always the quality that wins in the end.
      • What are you talking about?

        The same guy that designed WebOS has also designed the last two revisions of Android and the two have more in common now than ever.
      • That I agree 100%

        Android is sluggish, unstable and very insecure. No matter how much fandroids deny it ... it is a simple fact.

        WebOS is a hell of a lot better and unlike Android tablets, The HP TouchPad actually was an impressive 1st gen device. It was the ONLY tablet that actually had what was needed to compete with the iPad. .... then HP screwed up.
      • We'll see what Googlerola does

        If they can't improve Android, then yes, maybe WebOS is what is needed.

        Or maybe WinPhone will improve. I would like to give one a try if Verizon ever gets one.